Topeka, Kan. – In the United States, an estimated 10 million people experience domestic violence every year. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner.  In Kansas, 35.9 percent of women and 31.1 percent of men face abuse each year.

      And, in addition to potentially arresting the perpetrator, when a police officer deals with an abusive situation they have the opportunity to assess the lethality risk of that relationship.  Then, they can link the victim to services to prevent a potentially lethal event in the future.  That’s why the Topeka Police turned to the Washburn University Department of Social Work to verify the effectiveness of their Lethality Assessment Program and hear from officers and community partners regarding its effectiveness.

      “The Lethality Risk Assessment (LRA) has been used at the Topeka Police Department since 2012 but it hasn’t been evaluated scientifically until now,” according to Dr. Beth O’Neill, author of the evaluation and the principal investigator on the project.  “Newer officers are receiving training at the police academy while others received more informal training about the process.”

       Wherever the training takes place, the process in the field is identical.  Officers use a preset list of questions contained in the LRA to determine the level of risk for a potentially lethal future incident of domestic violence in that relationship.  A yes answer to some questions such as “do you think he/she might try to kill you?” automatically triggers a referral protocol for further assessment and services from the YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment.  Other questions carry less individual weight but could combine to trigger further intervention.

            O’Neill interviewed officers using the assessment tool as well as  community partners who use the LRA information, such as staff at the YWCA who provide victim assistance and the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office.  In addition, O’Neill did quantitative analysis of the individual cases and compared the results of the LRA to presence of future incidents of domestic violence in that relationship.

            “The results show that the LRA instrument used by the TPD performs on par with other LRA instruments and is effective in determining relationships at high risk for lethal domestic violence, and is viewed favorably and as useful by officers and community partners,” she said.  “It does have a high rate of false positives, but that is considered acceptable since a positive primarily triggers a referral to services.

            While the Washburn study did show that the use of the LRA was effective, it did note some areas for improvement moving forward.  Specifically, the study suggested additional targeted training for TPD personnel with particular emphasis on the Field Training Officers and cross-training with the YWCA.

            “One officer even suggested cross-training that would walk police officers through the process at the YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment so they can help explain to victims exactly what happens next,” O’Neill said.  “That way, the officer said, we’d be ready with an answer when a victim asks, ‘what good does it do me to call?’

            In addition, the study recommended routine refreshers for officers to emphasize the importance of the LRA and in connecting victims to services at the YWCA.

            Major Russell Krumpp from the Topeka Police said that he was excited to hear about the positive results from the study and looks forward to continuing to improve in their efforts to help victims of domestic violence.

          “When I created this tool for our officers to use, I did not know what the impact would be or if it could really make a difference,” Klumpp said.  “The design is based upon other scientifically tested clinical instruments so I really felt we could improve the services provided by our officers to victims of domestic violence and guide those victims to resources that could help them.”

         Klumpp said that the officers and their Crime Victims Assistance Coordinator, Dawn Maendele, have put so much into this program over the years, and that he feels that it is very satisfying to know those efforts have now been validated scientifically. 


For further information, contact:
Patrick M. Early, APR
Director of Public Relations
Telephone: (785) 670-1711
Cell: (717) 385-1119
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